Translation & Commentary of Verses from Surah Luqman [1 – 9]

Place of Revelation: Makkan1

[1] Alif. Lam. Mim.

[2] These are the verses of the Wise Book.

[3] A guidance and a mercy for those who excel (in good deeds).2


1. Qatadah has said that except for two verses – 27 and 28 – the rest of the Surah is Makkan. Ibn Abbas, however, said that three of its verses are not Makkan. (Qurtubi)

2. The ‘muhsinin‘ of the text has been explained in the verse itself with words that follow: “those who offer the Prayers (assiduously), give the Zakah.” (Zamakshari)

[4] Those who offer the Prayers (assiduously), give the Zakah and, they – in the Hereafter – they have sure faith.

[5] They are on a guidance from their Lord,3 and they, they indeed are the prosperers.


3. That is, on a path that is plain, clear, unambiguous and entirely satisfying to the mind, heart and soul. (Au.)

[6] And of the people is one4 who purchases idle discourse5 to lead astray from the path of Allah6 – without knowledge7 – and to treat it in mockery. They, for them is a humiliating chastisement.8


4. It is reported by most classical commentators that the allusion is to Nadr b. al-Harith who, in the words of Majid, “brought, from abroad, the romance of Persian heroes, allured to them the crowds of the Quraish and persuaded them to think that his stories were preferable to the word of God.” But, as Asad warns, the allusion is not to a specific person, but rather “describes a type of mentality and has, therefore, a general import.”

5. The textual ‘shira‘ (purchase) is not in its literal sense, but rather its preference over the truth; as for example, Allah (swt) said about those who preferred error over guidance, as those who purchased error. He said (2: 16), “They are the ones who purchased error in exchange of guidance.”(Qurtubi)

“Idle discourse” is not a very accurate rendition of the textual phrase “lahwa ‘l hadith.” It has been widely reported of Ibn Mas’ud that he emphatically explained it as alluding to songs. Ibn Abbas and his students agreed with Ibn Mas’ud’s interpretation, but added that all such instruments are included that cause distraction to the soul. (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir)

(And, although music goes with songs, and is included in the prohibition by default: Au.); Hasan al-Busri specifically mentioned it as covered in the disapproval. (Ibn Kathir)

A narrative in this connection, however, of Abdullah ibn Umar does not reach trustworthy status. It reports Nafi’ as saying, “I was with Abdullah ibn Mas’ud when he passed by someone playing on a flute. He cut across the path, pressed his fingers against his ears and kept asking me, ‘Nafi’, do you still hear?’ When I said no, he removed his fingers and said, ‘This is how I saw the Prophet do.’” Abu Daud and Iraqi have both distrusted the report. (Shawkani; S. Ibrahim)

There is another report, however, which comes down on the authority of Abdul Rahman ibn ‘Awf. It is of hasan status. (It is in Tirmidhi: S. Ibrahim) the Prophet (saws) said: “I have forbidden the voice of two idiotic perverts: a senseless voice accompanied by music, and the mournful voice at a misfortune accompanied by scratching of the face, tearing of the clothes and devilish screams.” (Shawkani)

A shorter version of the hadith has been declared by Haythami in his Zawaid as having a reliable chain. (Au.)

In general, all that diverts one’s attention from the useful to the useless, viz., nightly-gossips, flying anecdotes, talks centred around imaginary incidents or fictitious legends, jokes, songs and music is covered in the term: “lahwa ‘l hadith” (Zamakshari). Unless, of course, they remain within tolerable limits of occasional indulgence.(Au.)

In this connection, there is a report coming through Abu Umama al-Bahili, in which the Prophet (saws) said, “Sale and purchase of singers is unlawful, and so is the profit obtained over their hire.” It is about them that Allah (swt) revealed: “Of the people is the one who purchases idle tales to lead astray from the path of Allah.” (Ibn Jarir)

The report, however, as in Tirmidhi, was declared weak by him (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). Bukhari, Nasai, Dara Qutni and Abu Zur’ah have also distrusted one of its narrators.

Qurtubli lists down opinions of the past scholars about such songs as which included light music (in contrast to the kind of music in today’s songs, which can be described as heavy music and totally unacceptable: Au.) Ibn Mas’ud swore three times that the allusion in this verse is to songs (that include such music: Au.). So thought Ibn Umar, Ikrimah, Maymun b. Mahran, Makhul, Mujahid, Hasan, Qasim b. Muhammad, Malik and others. But according to Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Shafei, Imam Malik, Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal, Ibrahim (Nakha’i), Sha’bi, Thawri, and many others it is makruh.

Ibn Hanbal was asked about a singer slave-girl left to a boy in inheritance, whether she could be sold off to meet the child’s expenses. He replied that she could be sold, but not as a singer, even if that fetched a lower price. Qaffal has said that the testimony of a person given to songs and music may not be accepted. That applies to singers and musicians.

Imam Malik had, in fact, learnt to play music in his younger days. But when he grew up, his mother admonished him against it and so he gave up and took to studying Islamic disciplines. In sum, writes Qurtubi, the kind of song that motivates to what has been declared unlawful in Islam, is unlawful by consensus. However, that which does not, is lawful in small measures, on occasions, to effect a change in mood or remove boredom.

We have examples of simple songs to the accompaniment of a drum sung before the Prophet: (a) when he allowed Aisha to watch a group of dancers perform in the yard of his mosque, (b) when some girls sang on the occasion of Eid, [when Abu Bakr reproached them, the Prophet (saws) interrupted to say, “Let them alone, Abu Bakr. This is our Eid”] (c) when the Companions sang at the time of the mosque construction, or (d) when the Trench was being dug.

So also, simple kind of musical instruments such as tablah or drum are allowable if played once in a while. It is engrossment in these pastimes that is disapproved of. Also disallowed………….by ghayr mahram women. This was the opinion of Imam Shafe’i.

Mufti Shafi’ adds ahadith which comes from Abu Daud, Ibn Majah (whose commentators declared them weak), as well as from Ibn Hibban’s Sahih (which makes it trustworthy). The Prophet (saws) said, “Surely, some of my followers will give wine a different name and drink it and female singers will sing for them to the tunes of music. Allah (swt) will sink them into the earth and transforms some of them into monkeys and pigs.”

6. According to Ibn Abbas, recitation of the Qur’an and similar other devotional activities constitute the path of Allah (swt).

7. That is, in his extreme ignorance, he does not realize that his indulgence in songs, music, and other such activities divert him off Allah’s path. (IbnJarir)

8. ‘Humiliating chastisement’ because he did not treat Allah’s revelation with the care and respect….

[7] When Our verses are recited to such a one, he turns away in arrogance, as though he did not hear them: as though there is heaviness in his ears. So, give him the glad tiding of a painful punishment.9

[8] Surely, those who believed and did righteous works, for them are gardens of bliss.


9. “Painful punishment,” because he used to be pained at hearing the revelations of Allah. (IbnKathir)

[9] Abiding therein forever. Allah’s promise is true; and He is the Almighty, the All-wise.10


10. Asad paraphrases Imam Razi’s comments: “Commenting on the above three verses, Razi points out, firstly, that the deliberate contrast between the plural in the promise of ‘gardens (jannat) of bliss’ and the singular in that of ‘suffering’ (adhaab) is meant to show that God’s grace surpasses His wrath… and, secondly, that the use of the expression ‘to abide therein’ in connection with the mention of paradise only, and not with that of other-worldly suffering (or hell), is an indication that whereas the enjoyment of the former will be unlimited in duration, suffering in what is described as ‘hell’ will be limited.”

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